Indian agriculture, air pollution, and public health in the age of COVID

Posted on CSISA Success Story, Information Resources, October 9, 2020

Agriculture scientists and researchers study the possible impact to agricultural productivity due to COVID-19 disruptions and the increasing threat of pollution due to stubble burning in northern india. Emerging evidence supports the intuitive link between chronic health conditions associated with air pollution and the vulnerability of individuals and communities to COVID-19. Poor air quality already imposes a highly significant public health burden in Northwest India, with pollution levels spiking to hazardous levels in November and early December when rice crop residues are burned. The urgency of curtailing the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigating a potential resurgence later in the year provides even more justification for accelerating efforts to dramatically reduce open agricultural burning in India.

The COVID-19 crisis presents a unique opportunity for policymakers to prioritize productive & environmental-friendly farming practices as long-term solutions, assert researchers.

CSISA-MI in Bangladesh (English)

Posted on Information Resources, November 15, 2017

CSISA-MI(Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia – Mechanization & Irrigation), a project  led by CIMMYT, in collaboration with iDE and is being operated in Bangladesh for the last four years. It has transformed agriculture in southern Bangladesh by unlocking the potential productivity of the region’s farmers through surface water irrigation, efficient agricultural machinery and local service provision.

Public incentives, private investment, and outlooks for hybrid rice in Bangladesh and India.

Posted on Information Resources, October 27, 2017

Spielman, David J.; Ward, Patrick S.; Kolady, Deepthi Elizabeth; and Ar-Rashid, Harun.

The governments of Bangladesh and India have set impressive targets to expand hybrid rice cultivation as part of their national food security strategies for the next decade. Although hybrid rice offers significant yield improvements over varietal rice, adoption by farmers remains low and unstable. This paper analyzes the technical challenges, market opportunities, and policy constraints associated with hybrid rice in both countries. It argues that while many of the technical constraints can be addressed through continued investment in breeding, significant challenges remain relating to product development, marketing, and economic policy. Solutions require new insight into relationships between industry structure, business strategies, and public policy incentives.

Policy options to accelerate variety change among smallholder farmers in South Asia and Africa South of the Sahara.

Posted on Information Resources, October 27, 2017

Spielman, David J. and Smale, Melinda. 2017.

The genetic improvement of food staple crops cultivated by small-scale farmers is a well-established route to increasing agricultural productivity and improving rural livelihoods. But in developing countries where seed markets are commercially active or advancing in that direction, undue emphasis in both policy and research is often placed on the adoption of improved cultivars rather than varietal turnover, or the replacement of an already improved variety with a more recently released improved variety. Strong and consistent rates of varietal turnover contribute to sustaining yield gains over time, protecting those gains from both biotic and abiotic stresses, increasing the sustainability of intensive cropping systems, and improving the quality of the commodity itself for storage, processing, and consumption. This paper explores the importance of varietal turnover in advanced and transitional seed systems for food staples in South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara. We first review the measurement of varietal turnover over spatial and temporal dimensions before examining evidence on policies designed to accelerate varietal turnover rates. We then suggest a sequence of regulatory reforms and public investments designed to accelerate varietal turnover while drawing attention to the economic trade-offs, unintended consequences, and operational challenges of such reforms and investments.

Insuring against droughts: Evidence on agricultural intensification and index insurance demand from a randomized evaluation in rural Bangladesh.

Posted on Information Resources, October 27, 2017

Hill, Ruth Vargas; Kumar, Neha; Magnan, Nicholas; Makhija, Simrin; de Nicola, Francesca; Spielman, David J.; Ward, Patrick S. 2017. Insuring against droughts: Evidence on agricultural intensification and index insurance demand from a randomized evaluation in rural Bangladesh. IFPRI Discussion Paper 1630. Washington, D.C.: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

It is widely acknowledged that unmitigated risks provide a disincentive for otherwise optimal investments
in modern farm inputs. Index insurance provides a means for managing risk without the burdens of
asymmetric information and high transaction costs that plague traditional indemnity-based crop insurance
programs. Yet many index insurance programs that have been piloted around the world have met with
rather limited success, so the potential for insurance to foster more intensive agricultural production has
yet to be realized. This study assesses both the demand for and the effectiveness of an innovative index
insurance product designed to help smallholder farmers in Bangladesh manage risk to crop yields and the
increased production costs associated with drought. Villages were randomized into either an insurance
treatment or a comparison group, and discounts and rebates were randomly allocated across treatment
villages to encourage insurance take-up and to allow for the estimation of the price elasticity of insurance
demand. Among those offered insurance, we find insurance demand to be moderately price elastic, with
discounts significantly more successful in stimulating demand than rebates. Farmers who are highly risk
averse or sensitive to basis risk prefer a rebate to a discount, suggesting that the rebate may partially offset
some of the implicit costs associated with insurance contract nonperformance. Having insurance yields
both ex ante risk management effects and ex post income effects on agricultural input use. The risk
management effects lead to increased expenditures on inputs during the aman rice-growing season,
including expenditures for risky inputs such as fertilizers, as well as those for irrigation and pesticides. The
income effects lead to increased seed expenditures during the boro rice-growing season, which may signal
insured farmers’ higher rates of seed replacement, which broadens their access to technological
improvements embodied in newer seeds as well as enhancing the genetic purity of cultivated seeds.

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